Rich Hegarty from the World Snowboard Tour hit up shaper Charles Beckinsale - the guy charged with building this year's World Championships of Snowboarding slopestyle course and Big Air kicker - for an in-depth conversation on the art of kicker- and park building.
Where do you normally work?
I’m the terrain park manager at Perisher during the southern hemisphere winter and a park groomer / builder at Whistler Blackcomb during the northern hemisphere winter.
What makes you a good park designer and builder?
I guess it’s my riding background and the fact I still ride what I’m building.
How do you feel about building the World Championship Slopestyle Course and the Big Air set up?
Its a real honour and not something I take lightly. Just like the riders, I’m going there to do my best with what is there so hopefully when they arrive they get the best course of the season and its a great experience for everyone. I haven’t been to China and it’s not something I would have imagined I would be doing, but I’m really exited about building it.
I’m really excited to be going to China to work on building the slope course with Ryan and his team. It sounds like they are able to make tons of snow at the site so it should be a real pleasure getting the features and the overall flow of the slopestyle dialled. In my experience when the flow of the course and all the transitions match up well, that’s when riders feel comfortable to push the progression, so that is key in what we want to deliver.
What have you been up to over the past few years that have brought you into the spotlight to become the World Championship Slopestyle builder?
I would think its been the work I have done on the Mile High Slopestyle course and Perisher features, the Whistler Ski and Snowboard Festival and even just the jump lines I’ve worked on for the park programs I work at. They are hit all day every day by riders and word travels if something is on point. I’ve been lucky enough to also work on some really big film projects in both the ski and snowboard world, I think these more than anything have brought a bit of a spotlight on my work. Having good working relationships with the riders and event and shoot coordinators really helps too.
You are more of a film feature builder than a competition course builder. What is the build you have done recently that you liked the most?
I do build a lot of special features. The butter pad/whale tail I built for Level one productions last spring in Whistler [I liked most]. Just seeing it getting ridden, the way the transitions matched up and the flow between the first landing and the next take off was very satisfying for me. Good features are good features; at the end of the day the only difference between a singular feature and a slopestyle course is how you set them out so that there is good flow.
Slopestyle was becoming repetitive because of course design always being the same. Do you think course design should adapt constantly with the sport?
Absolutely. If it doesn’t it just becomes too predictable, you’ll have the coaches training everyone to do similar runs with all the big spins and style is too much of a grey area on paper to judge on. The best riders will always adapt so I think change in course design keeps it fresh for everyone, but baby steps is important so you don’t go getting too radical too quick.
You build The Mile High by Carlton Dry in Perisher each year. It must be nice having all of the world’s best snowboarders riding in your park for a few months each year and then getting to build them a competition course and a bunch of film session features.
I love being home in Perisher. It’s becoming so popular with the riders each year now that it’s really inspiring to be a part of. It’s great being able to talk with my favourite riders and pick their brains on the park features they have been riding and things they want to ride in the future. It’s the best way to feed your creativity when going into a park rebuild or special film project build, I want Perisher and the Mile high to be exciting for everyone to come back to each year, so it has to evolve and the best way is to get riders involved. Torstein is always full of refreshing ideas so I love working with him on things.
Do you work with many riders on feature ideas?
Always, I think it’s the best way forward.
Do you think the Chinese riders could win the World Championships?
I’m not super familiar with any Chinese riders yet but I’m looking forward to seeing them compete.
Who are your favorites for winning the Slopestyle and Big Air at the WCSnowboarding in China in March?
There are so many good riders right now but Mark McMorris, Stale Sandbech, Max Parrot, Chas Guldemond, Seb Toots as well as the young guys like Darcy Sharpe, Tyler Nicholson, Mons Roisland and Sebbe De Buck not to mention Torstein Horgmo if he is back in form from his recent injury. It’s always close with the guys. With the girls, Spencer Obrien, Jamie Anderson and Anna Gasser I feel are a pretty clear choice.
What is your favourite Slopestyle event course out there at the moment?
I like the creative factors I saw in The Mile High, BEO and US Open last season, X-Games consistently does well in my mind too its hard to pick a favourite.
Here are a few of Charles's recent builds...
Level One Productions
This was for Level One productions, they wanted a butter pad for their movie, I suggested one that was like a down hill whale tail, kind of like a step over jump into a step down cliff that you could do big tricks like doubles into and floaty style tricks out of, something different to the butter pads I’ve seen before. It was one of the most aesthetically pleasing builds I’ve ever done.
Mark McMorris In Motion Build
Mark McMorris wanted something for his movie that was diverse and had lots of options, so we built a step over cut out style jump with transition hits and side transitions on the landings.
The Mile High Slopestyle Course
We didn’t have much luck with the weather during the event but the course was cool with lots of different lines to be had, the weather cleared up after the event and I saw lots of progressive tricks go down once everyone got to ride it, kind of bitter sweet.
The Hip from Shred Bots in Perisher, Australia.
Torstein basically wanted to go to the moon and have some fun on the side. We built a spine that was possible to go end to end on like a massive table top and then added quarter pipe hits cut into each side so that you could hit those and land in a flat bank, it looked really cool for learning bigger pipe tricks without the consequence of coping. Torstein went as big as I’ve seen anyone go on a spine it was insane watching that session.